If you thought the local library was only about books, you need to catch up on the latest plans.
Denton library officials have proposed an overhaul of the computer lab at North Branch Library to add high-powered computers, software, peripherals and training for more sophisticated users.
Dubbed the Forge, the “maker space” would support creative activities that require technology resources that are often too costly for individuals to purchase and maintain and that are typically not publicly available in Denton, according to Trey Ford, a technology librarian at North Branch.
Public libraries are beginning to offer such services, said Terri Gibbs, Denton’s director of libraries, who toured a new maker space at the Chicago Public Library as part of a professional development conference.
Just like library classes that teach computer basics — which the library will continue to offer in the lab — the maker space will come with classes and support for people who want to learn higher-end skills, Gibbs said.
The goal is to serve lifelong learning.
“To stay relevant into the 21st century, libraries need to offer the full spectrum of services,” Gibbs said.
The overhaul would allow the library to offer the services people need for sound and music recording and editing, podcasting, video creation and editing and digital art, including comics.
Ford will also offer classes using special educational computers that help people understand hardware and software, so they can work on innovations in computers themselves.
Once trained on the equipment, users could come to the maker space with their designs and output objects on a 3-D printer, too. That capability allows designers to build and test inexpensive prototypes of objects they create, Gibbs said.
The Forge is part of several supplemental spending packages being considered by the City Council for the coming fiscal year. Equipping the maker space is expected to cost about $13,000, including the purchase of the 3-D printer and enough spools of thermoplastic to last about a year.
Best of all, the classes and the equipment would be available for free to library users, although there would likely be fees for 3-D printing.
Denton is a creative community with unique needs, Gibbs said, and people have been asking for more sophisticated technology resources.
“It’s our job to figure it out,” Gibbs said.
Should the council approve the proposal, the library plans to have the equipment in place by January, but Ford will begin offering some classes for higher-end users in October, which aren’t limited to adults. Teens will be able to take the classes, too.
In November, Ford will also offer “Squishy Circuits,” a class that introduces elementary students to computers as they build circuits with modeling dough.
Denton Public Library has a survey up on its website, www.dentonlibrary.com, where residents can provide feedback on its services, including the maker space.
We like the direction the library is taking. Gibbs is right — Denton is a creative city, and its residents deserve to have more sophisticated technology resources available.
A lot has changed since we got our library card, and while we may never use some of the new services that are being discussed, it’s good to know that officials are keeping up with the times.
The library has always been there when we needed it, and we’d like to think that it will be here to serve future residents for many years to come.